Senior in Action – Betsy Dunn

Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.

Re: photo taken in front of the waterfall:

The waterfall picture was taken at Mendenhall Lake in Alaska when we took our boat up


Senior in Action – Betsy Dunn

as told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

Is Betsy your given name?

“My parents named me Mary Elizabeth, but if someone called that name, I’d assume they were looking for someone else.  As a kid, I hated the name Betsy; I was teased because of the “Betsy Wetsy” doll that was popular during the Baby Boom era.  Now that I’m an adult, I love my unique name.”

What year were you born?  Are you a native Californian?

I was born in 1947, and grew up in the San Fernando Valley in southern California. My parents raised five children, and my father had a wicked sense of humor.  My dad was a passionate family man, perhaps because my grandfather died when dad was just 7 years old, and dad’s mother was an alcoholic.  Dad enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II where he loaded bombs onto planes.  He earned the reputation as a hellraiser.  My mother was a typical homemaker.  Mom was horrified that I never learned to make a decent pie crust, as she was a skilled pie baker.“

“I attended St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, where I met my husband, Greg.  Our class was very small, and I desperately wanted a date for the upcoming Homecoming dance.  Having dated and rejected other guys in my class, I asked my friends to evaluate the new guys who enrolled for the Senior year. They said Greg was not a nerd, but an athlete with a nice personality.  I told my girlfriends, “Hands off!  He’s mine!”  It was meant to be, as we’ve been married now for 54 years.”

“I‘ve always worked, mostly in education.  I taught Head Start in Indio where Greg held a teaching position.  When he left teaching to work construction in San Clemente, I took a clerical job at Marco Forster Middle School in San Juan Capistrano, and later worked at Coldwell Bank Real Estate, then at Mazda Corporate.”

Do you and Greg have children and grandchildren?

                  “We have two grown daughters, Julie and Jennifer.  Julie lives in Mission Viejo and Jennifer lives in Oceanside, so we are in-between both girls at our home in San Juan Capistrano.  Julie and her husband have four children: Aidan, Ella, Erin and Joey.  The other member of our extended family is Jennifer’s dog, Winnie.”

In addition to your family activities, what do you enjoy doing in retirement?

                  For the past two years, I served as President of the San Clemente Garden Club.  My term ended in June 2023.  The SC Garden Club meets monthly, and publishes a very professional newsletter.  It was a bit daunting to create a President’s message for each newsletter as writing is not my talent, but the team who puts the newsletter together is terrific.  In fact, our newsletter received a statewide award last year.  During the pandemic, the SC Garden Club met via Zoom, but we have resumed meeting in person at St. Andrews Church.  There are over 200 members, which is fortunate since we maintain several gardens in San Clemente, and supervise seven vegetable gardens at San Clemente school campuses.  Our garden club provides financial support and organizes parent volunteers at the school gardens.  We raise funds through a plant sale in October, and through home garden tours.”

“I am most proud of the annual scholarships which the San Clemente Garden Club gives to high school seniors who plan to study landscape architecture, or horticulture.  The garden club also organizes field trips to local gardens, and places of interest such as the Water Reclamation plant and Prima Deshecha Landfill.”

Any tips you’d like to share with NBY readers about staying active?

“My husband and I like to plan weekly field trips just to get out of the house. For example, last week we felt like having dinner at our favorite restaurant in Morro Bay: Dorn’s Original Breakers Café.  We drove to Morro Bay, listening to music and podcasts on the highway.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner, spent the night in a hotel, then drove home in the morning.  Sometimes we visit museums in San Diego’s Balboa Park, tour gardens, or attend plays.  Recently, we checked out the Arvida Book Company, a new/used bookstore in Tustin.  Go exploring!”

If you would like to know more about the San Clemente Garden Club, check their website at


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